By John V Sserwaniko
President Museveni will this Saturday travel to Katakwi Ongongoja Sub County to preside over the thanksgiving ceremony for Jessica Alupo’s late father. The ex-Minister will be remembering her father who in 2003 was blown dead by LRA-planted land mines as he returned from his new work station in Amuria. As founding headmaster for Apuuton Primary School, the old man wielded enormous influence throughout Katakwi and being his daughter gifted Alupo with the initial political capital she started with in 2006 when she first stood and became Katakwi woman MP. Being a devout Catholic of enormous influence throughout Teso, Alupo’s thanksgiving ceremony will be graced by Tororo Bishop Emmanuel Obbo who is the caretaker Bishop for Soroti Catholic Diocese. Museveni confirmed his attendance during a last weekend meeting he held with Alupo-mobilized Katakwi leaders at his Kisozi ranch. Alupo, who has been camped at her country home in Ongomoja Sub County since the 2016 defeat, used the meeting to show political clout as the 17 Sub County LC3 Chairpersons present were shocked to learn from the President that it was her (and not any of the serving MPs) that prompted him to grant this meeting. “She has been doing a lot of the H.E.’s clandestine political mobilization not just in Katakwi but the larger Teso and it was during one of those follow up meetings that she told Mzee ‘my people would like to have a meeting with you.’ That’s how that meeting was granted confirming that unlike other elected leaders, Alupo cares about everybody and not just herself,” says a Museveni assistant privy to the Kisozi meeting. “Many wonder how she has been making ends meet without holding any government position yet she lives large and extends more financial support to the community than any elected leaders. It’s because Mzee has been supporting her financially and giving her facilitation to do his work in Teso. She is regular at burials where she always addresses mourners saying ‘greetings from the President.’ She then contributes big sums of money for such emergencies and announces it as a contribution from the President.”
WHY M7 GOING TO KATAKWI
Besides doing this to embolden Alupo’s community activities aimed at winning in 2016, Museveni is going to Katakwi to salvage his own political fortunes. “The Kisozi meeting was very helpful because the composition of the delegation was representative of all the different interest groups and the agenda discussed was very helpful because it reminded Mzee of the long standing pledges to Katakwi,” says a State House source. The big man was regrettably reminded of the long standing pledge to support and compensate the community resident in Apewuru-Awodot parish who in 2000 were invaded by the Karamajong rustlers who butchered many during that raid having overpowered UPDF soldiers who were guarding their IDP camp. Alupo used the Kisozi meeting to remind Museveni’s about this long standing political grievance and he will be using his Saturday visit to reassure families who lost loved ones in that raid. Museveni was shocked to be reminded that community has never received any financial support despite his repeated promises. The Alupo delegation (comprising of LC3 Chairpersons, district councilors and opinion leaders like ex-LC5 Chair John Robert Ekongot, Solomon Osiya of NGO Pilgrim, NRM Chairman Richard Opio Edeket etc) also reminded Museveni about the Magoro Sub County (Toroma County) whose long standing grievances relate to UWA’s insistence to integrate part of their land onto Pian Upe game reserve. UWA annexed several parishes which the aggrieved community insist was their settlement area and are backed by the Katakwi district council resolution. In 2016 Museveni reneged on his promise to degazzete that place back for human settlement. The issue resurfaced again in the May 2018 Toroma by elections when it became a campaign issue accounting for why out of the 9,000 voters in that Sub County, NRM got only 800 votes. The rest were protest votes for the non NRM candidates. UWA has been demolishing people’s houses, something Museveni protested during the Kisozi meeting. “In fact I’m speaking to UWA for a proper brief which I will have studied ahead of our Saturday event,” Museveni assured his guests.
LAND GRABBING ISSUE
Museveni will also use the event to clarify that his government doesn’t condone land-grabbing which the area MPs and LC5 Chairman Walter Elakas have been implicated in regarding the more than 36,000 acres of land in Ongomoja, Guya-Guya, Usuk, Okore and Okulonyo Sub Counties. More than 22,000 families have been sleepless facing the risk of eviction from the land elected leaders have curiously been claiming to be government land yet the same was deggazzeted by Parliament during the 2nd May 2002 session chaired by Deputy Speaker Kadaga. This was at a time people were beginning to leave camps and return to their normal life. Available documentation shows it’s only the Olilim Police establishment that is for government. The rest is community land. Thinking residents had forgotten, elected leaders were fronting an investor to take up that land and questionable titling of the same was being attempted. Museveni realizes the apparent indifference by elected leaders dents NRM and gives an entry point to the opposition. He will be using the Saturday visit to reassure the people. This will enable him appear a pacifier of sorts and increase his appeal. Museveni will also be trying to understand why local volunteers suffered police harassment as they went about sensitizing people about this being government land. In the same area is a MAAIF resilient project used for animal breeding programs. This land issue had become so hot at some point elected leaders were chased with pangas and MPs couldn’t go there to market the Magyezi bill in 2017.
In the Kisozi meeting Museveni also pronounced himself on the demands by Usuk County MP Peter Ogwang’s supporters to create Katakwi Municipality off from Usuk County which has close to 10 sub counties. Saying it wasn’t viable and would cost government more, Museveni rejected the Municipality and agreed with Alupo’s proposal to instead create Katakwi County to be comprised of Usuk Town Council, Palam, Ngariam and Okore Sub Counties. Gratefully, this shields Usuk County MP Peter Ogwang as it keeps him away from Ongomoja Sub County where land-grabbing victims are envious of his thriving goat farm. Voters become more resentful each time they look at his vast goat farm land operating in a well-fortified enclosure. In future, Museveni will certainly permit Municipality status because he remains committed to appreciating Katakwi residents for being the other district (besides Bukedea) that has always elected NRM people even in 2006 when Besigye’s key swept Teso. Usuk Constituency will stay with Sub Counties like Ongomoja, Guya-Guya, Okore, Usuk and Okulonyo where Ogwang is least popular though even in the new Katakwi County he will still face Alupo-backed Augustine Otuku.
In publicly fraternizing with Alupo, Museveni must have reflected on her renewed political appeal in the district. Voters, prompted by the Catholic Church leadership, have been nostalgically missing their former woman MP Jessica Alupo in comparison with Violet Akurut’s glaring failures. Our research shows that the humbling 2016 defeat taught Alupo hard lessons. She has since been meeting villagers apologizing for her past mistakes-including perceived pride and arrogance. At some point recently, voters made her realize the problem was her handlers who responded arrogantly instead of explaining her Teso-wide accomplishments to the populace. Residents have since reflected on how she used to lobby for and take Catholic priests to the President which rarely happens these days under Akurut who largely won because of Ogwang support. Ogwang and Alupo resented each other, something that favored Akurut. They saw each other as threat to one’s ascendance to cabinet. In the end, Alupo who faced a hostile PS Rose Nassali lost by about 3,000 votes. She rallied Usuk County but badly lost Toroma County which gave Akurut an edge over her. Matters went to court where Akurut’s nomination was challenged on grounds she hadn’t properly resigned her UHRC job. One of Alupo’s supporters pursued her up to Court of Appeal where she triumphed. Huge court costs resulted but Museveni reportedly helped Alupo get the money for her proxy and thereby denying Akurut chance to ride on that to keep Alupo crippled in the villages. Residents are nostalgic of the fact that when she was Education Minister, Alupo not only connected the Catholic clergy (Akurut is catholic too but not an effective lobbyist) but also many other sons of Teso. She ensured two Katakwi cadres became RDCs namely Walter Eraka and Philbert Ochaillap. Soroti University (SUN) is another platform she used to reward sons of Teso including Prof Ikoja who became pioneer VC. Three other eminent sons of Teso became members of SUN top organ. All major schools in Katakwi got infrastructure, libraries and computer labs. Three schools were elevated to A’level because of her including Katakwi High School and Toroma SS. Children after S4 had to go to Soroti which Alupo ended. Yet that isn’t all. She ensured each of these schools got a school bus from GoU. This is why voters consider her as more community-centered than the current leaders who have concentrated on using proximity to the president to lobby personal favors and economic transformation at the expense of the broader community. Yet the context under which Akurut hasn’t done as much ought to be understood. Besides not being an effective lobbyist compared to more networked Alupo, Akurut lost nearly three years in court as she endured a very troubling court case filed by Alupo’s supporters. The court process cost her time and resources besides taking an emotional toll on her.
Known for never taking anyone for granted, Museveni is also restless about Patrick Oboi Amuriat (POA) the new FDC President whose influence could potentially cause the opposition to regain some lost political ground. POA is a Catholic and a community mobilizer with excellent political mobilization skills. Museveni is counting on equally effective Alupo to counter and neutralize the potential electoral threat posed by POA. “That is why Mzee will continue facilitating her grass root political activities not only in Katakwi but the whole of Teso because the top Catholic clerics at Soroti diocese are more comfortable embracing Alupo than Amuriat who financially doesn’t have as much to offer them,” said one of the Teso political analysts we spoke to for this article. We spoke to local leaders and several local political journalists who were unanimous Alupo’s return as Katakwi woman MP is now a foregone conclusion. For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.